Stomp Out the Stigma — Speak About Depression
7th April 2017, recently marked as World Health Day, introduced a campaign with the goal of, “DEPRESSION — LET’S TALK.” Yes, depression a fairly common issue; we all hear about it often, but do we even properly think about it? Depression, as perceived by myself, is a morbid illness. As such, depression has been proven to interfere with one’s personal and social life significantly.
The prevalence of depression in Pakistan is approximately 34% as compared to 14% in the West. What makes us more vulnerable to this condition? The answers to this question can be manifold; failure to recognize the symptoms a person with depression presents with, for one.
For instance, if any of your family members, friends or peers feel fatigued and lethargic most of the time, look sullen and gloomy, are unable to keep pace with their routine work, have become unsociable, or complain of a persistent headache and even loss of appetite — what would your first instinct be? Probably anaemia to account for their sluggishness, some attitude issues to explain their anti-social behaviour, or some neurological issue to justify their somatic symptoms? But did we consider depression as the underlying pathology?
Depression is a mood disorder with the presence of the abovementioned symptoms for more than two weeks. Once identified, one more hurdle in seeking help for depression is the stigma associated with depression. Unfortunately, mental illness in our society is regarded as something abominable.
However, as proven scientifically, depression is essentially a disturbance in the chemicals of the brain. We as a society offer our sympathies to people with Down syndrome, cancer, Huntington’s disease — but when it comes to patients of depression, we distance ourselves from them. This taboo has been inculcated in us as a fear that stops us from seeking psychological help.
Even if one seeks help, one fails to adhere to therapy. Maybe we fail to recognize the implications depression can have on one’s life.
Hence, our role as healthcare professionals and responsible members of society is to enlighten by battling the stigma related to mental health, identifying people around us, encouraging them to talk, engaging them in physical exercise, encouraging them to make their lifestyle healthier and showing them the true colours of nature. And, if required, encouraging them to seek specialist care as well.
Silly little girl,
Don’t fool yourself,
They’ve seen your scars,
Just don’t want to help,
Little do they know,
How much could change,
With three little words,
“Are you okay?”
(This poem was taken from Pinterest.)
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